Unnatural Relations V

The term Free Market, as it is usually used, is only an abstraction. In reality, there are only particular markets that exist within particular social contexts and arrangements. We should therefore see the market as the servant of the community in which it exists. This makes it necessary to analyze the market as primarily a function of communal relations that enables a type of political flourishing, political, in this context, meaning the group qua group.

For modern Americans, this may seem inimical to what their conception of the free market entails. To speak of the needs of the community might appear to be merely a socialist mimicry. I would ascribe this line of thought to two sources. The first is actual socialism. Socialism has done much to destroy the notion of the common good. Whereas the common good might have once enjoyed a prominent position in discussions of political economy, it is now seen, at least by many modern conservatives, as antithetical to private property and personal liberty. The second is liberalism, broadly speaking. This would include many strains of what we would call conservative thought. Perhaps because of the prevalence of socialism, or perhaps for independent reasons, Americans subscribe to an ideology of individualism wherein the individual must assert his rights against any and all who are perceived to make a claim on him. When this is coupled with the efforts of the modern state to eliminate any form of social organization that might provide a bulwark between it and individual people, the idea of the common good becomes either misused or too thin to have any real content.

When the state enacts policies of multiculturalism, seeks to actively alter the demographics of its own country, enforces, through popular culture, a materialism that encourages mobility for the sake of success as the pinnacle of virtue, and when it eliminates any federative principle by which its authority might be removed to more local governing bodies, the need to assert the rights of the individual might seem of paramount importance. In reality, however, it only reinforces the idea that the modern state and the individual are the only viable political actors. Since any form of local government, that is, government which is actually a part of the people it represents, has been rendered impotent in this country for some time now, the only organizations left with power are the national state and any corporate entity wealthy enough to manipulate the state. Neither body is loyal to any person or place, so we are left with a thoroughly devastated notion of the market existing for the sake of the community. This does not mean, though, that we should adjust our conception of the free market and how it relates to human justice, it means that all of the aforementioned impediments and ideologies must be removed before any sane discussion can begin.


  1. "In reality, however, it only reinforces the idea that the modern state and the individual are the only viable political actors."-- Bingo. You know, if you're in NYC you ought to come by the NY Chesterton Society meetings... next one is a week from Monday, 7:30 at Old Town Bar at 45 E 18th. We're going to be talking about Chaps. 3-6 of Outline of Sanity. Generally a good time.

  2. Sounds interesting. Also, I loved your piece at the Front Porch Republic on your experience teaching the child about money.

  3. Do you think things were better in, say, the 1950s as to stronger local govenments and freeer free markets? Or was it far in the past that it was better?

  4. Well, without delving into too much historical revision, the 1950's were a period of comparatively less federal power over local authority and business activity, but this is not really saying much. Today, the federal government can do anything it pleases to whomever it pleases. This might sound like hyperbole, but the truth is that America has already removed all theoretical bulwarks to state power. Today, it is just a matter of practical advancement. Things that were unthinkable only 30 years ago are treated as matters of common sense today, and this process will continue indefinitely.